Getting Your Ducks in a Row with Poultry First Aid Kits
A First Aid Kit Checklist for Your Flock
Reading Time: 4 minutes
By Cappy Tosetti
Every minute counts when emergencies occur. It’s best to be prepared and aware of what could happen on any given day, and to be ready to handle urgent situations quickly, calmly, and with confidence. This is a primary concern when raising backyard chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and other birds. Veterinarians with avian experience and knowledge are not always available, so it makes sense to be cognizant of health and safety concerns, and how to treat injuries and wounds. It’s also important to have an understanding of the different illnesses, diseases, and parasites that can affect one’s flock.
A well-stocked first-aid kit is a good start. It doesn’t mean going out and purchasing the likes of the corner pharmacy; many items can easily be found in the medicine cabinet and kitchen cupboard. Supplies can be added over time.
A quarantine area away from the flock is also a smart move, making sure it’s safe from predators and sheltered from the weather. This can be a collapsible wire dog kennel, rabbit cage, or a homemade wooden box. All food and supplies should be kept separately — stored in covered containers. The “sick bay” doesn’t have to be set up at all times, but should be easily accessible in case of an emergency.
Keeping track of the health and safety of one’s animals makes life easier, whether it’s a laptop computer or a simple three-ring binder. It’s a place to scan or file paperwork on poultry purchases, receipts for supplies and medications, and notes on any injuries or illnesses. It’s an essential tool for reviewing past incidents and being prepared for the future.
A filing system is also a handy place to store pertinent information from national and regional poultry associations, local extension offices, magazines, online tips, and useful suggestions from others. Books on the subject are also valuable. Everyone has their favorite title, but an excellent ebook worth downloading is Backyard Poultry Health Guide: Diagnosis and Treatment by Nicole Gennetta.
Nicole owns Heritage Acres Market, a two-acre hobby farm in Pueblo West, Colorado. She’s a retired paramedic and firefighter who currently teaches CPR and community college classes when not tending to her bees, goats, poultry and market shop. She was inspired to write the book because of an interest in medicine, chickens, and helping others.
“I wanted something that was concise and easy to understand,” Nicole explains. “Being prepared is a major step in raising poultry, so including a detailed list of first aid tools, supplies, and medications was important — much like having a recipe to bake a cake. It’s followed by a comprehensive health guide that covers just about everything one might encounter, with research-based treatments and dosages — pulling information from poultry veterinary manuals and research papers. We’re in this together, sharing knowledge and experiences with our birds.”
Thanks to modern technology, online videos are available that demonstrate a variety of ways to care and treat birds. It’s great for learning and connecting with others like Morgan and Allison Gold at Gold Shaw Farm in Peacham, Vermont where they raise ducks. Their video on treating bumblefoot is most helpful, especially the step-by-step process of performing surgery on one of their hens. It’s very informative, and Morgan’s sense of humor helps ease any trepidation about attempting such a feat.
It’s wise to research and compare notes on how other poultry keepers stock their shelves with emergency supplies. Some might have a central first aid kit for all barnyard animals, while others choose one specifically for poultry. Here’s a list of suggested items.
Tools & Supplies
- Storage containers with lids
- Contact information card attached to the container — veterinarian, poison control telephone numbers, etc.
- Plastic baggies for storing small items
- Nail clippers — both canine and human
- Nail file or emery boards
- Scalpel — optional choice for treating bumblefoot
- An eyedropper and non-needle syringes — administrating medications
- Cotton swabs
- Paper towels
- Vinyl or latex gloves
- Protective eyewear and mask
- Nonstick pads, gauze rolls, waterproof tape — bandaging cuts and wounds
- Self-adherent veterinary first aid wraps (Vet-Wrap)
- Steri-Strips — cuts and wound closure
- Scale for weighing birds
- Heat lamp
- Towels — for wrapping and calming birds
- LED flashlight
- Superglue gel or tissue adhesive (Vet Bond by 3M), teabags — for beak repairing
- Collapsible dog kennel, separate cage or wooden box — sickbay quarantine
- Puppy training pads — floor padding sickbay containment
- Chicken saddle — hen protection and feather loss from roosters
- Bucket or dishpan — to soak feet — bumblefoot treatment
Medications and Home Remedy Treatments
- Rubbing alcohol — for sterilizing tools
- Epson salts — for soaking feet to treat bumblefoot
- Saline solution — washing eye injuries
- Hydrogen peroxide or chlorhexidine antimicrobial solution — cleaning wounds
- Non-coated aspirin — alleviates pain (dilute in water container)
- Petroleum jelly or coconut oil — protects combs and wattles from frostbite — suffocates scaly mites — treats prolapse
- Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin) — use only “without pain relief” variety
- Antibacterial gel spray (Vetericyn Plus Poultry Care) — treating and healing wounds
- Diphenhydramine allergy liquid for children (Benadryl) — treating insect bites
- Styptic blood-stop powder — for clipped nails, beaks, broken blood feathers (home remedies: cornstarch or flour)
- Dr. Naylor Blue-Kote — germ-killing fungicidal, wound dressing, and healing aid — discourage pecking
- Sav-A-Chick — Electrolytes for heat stroke, failure to thrive, shock (or homemade remedy recipes)
- Poultry VetRx — for treating respiratory ailments, congestion
- Mite, lice, and parasite control — discuss prevention and treatment with your veterinarian
- Diatomaceous earth (DE) — natural pesticide for dusting the coop (essential to understand the use of DE and how to apply it safely)
- Worming medication — research the various products available
- ACV — Apple cider vinegar (unfiltered) — many claim it helps reduce internal worms in the digestive tract
At first glance, this shopping list might seem overwhelming and costly. Don’t panic! It’s merely a guide to encourage the practice of having something available for emergencies that fits one’s needs and budget. Being prepared is key in maintaining a healthy and happy environment for backyard birds. It simply starts by saying yes!
Heritage Acres Market: firstname.lastname@example.org www.heritageacresmarket.com
Gold Shaw Farm: www.goldshawfarm.com (860) 595-6829
Originally published in the Backyard Poultry Special Subscriber 2020 issue — Comb to Tail Health — and regularly vetted for accuracy.